Dealing with embarrassing party behaviour

With Christmas party season around the corner where employees and staff will be excited about the office Christmas party and see it as a time to let their hair down and enjoy themselves with their colleagues. What if employees end up behaving in an embarrassing fashion at the Christmas Party, as quite often, their behaviour won’t warrant any disciplinary action but how should employers tackle the situation?

It’s fair to say that Christmas parties can cause numerous headaches for employers. Whilst some behaviour will clearly be unacceptable, such as fighting and the use of offensive language, other actions will fall neatly into the embarrassing category.

According to research carried out by the TUC:

  • 27% of employees have challenged a colleague to a dance off at a works Christmas party
  • 9% of employees have been sick; and
  • 8% of employees have revealed something embarrassing about themselves to a colleague.

The majority of embarrassing behaviour – which can also include crying uncontrollably, stripping off and telling stupid jokes – is fuelled by too much alcohol with each individual having their own level of tolerance. But once the party is over how should you go about tackling an employee’s embarrassing behaviour? The first piece of advice is don’t ignore it.

Even if the employee would rather forget the incident, you don’t want them to think it’s acceptable behaviour. Furthermore, there might be things that need to be smoothed over. So as soon as possible after the party ask the employee if you can have a quiet word in private. Before you discuss what happened, bear in mind that they may actually have no recollection of events. So start by saying “I’m not sure if you can recall what happened at the Christmas party, but you… (insert embarrassing behaviour)”.

You’ll know if they do from their reaction. Next, ask the employee if they are OK; if they are visibly upset enquire whether there’s anything they wish to talk about but don’t be too surprised if they clam up. Depending on what happened, there’s a chance that the employee may need to apologise to others. Should this be the case, suggest that they do so quickly and, where possible, say sorry in person.

If the employee is worried about doing this, offer to speak to the other party on their behalf in the first instance. Make it clear that you won’t be apologising for them; this is just to open up the channels of communication.

Unfortunately, embarrassing employee behaviour is seen as great fodder for social media and pictures and/or video clips of incidents are often posted online.

If this comes to your attention ask the individual who has posted to remove the content immediately. Where that person is an existing employee you can threaten disciplinary action if the posts aren’t removed.

If you haven’t held your Christmas party yet, issue a polite reminder to all staff explaining what behaviour will be deemed unacceptable.

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